Having high cholesterol means you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. This can eventually build-up and cause blockages in the arteries. When this happens it can lead to heart problems and strokes.
There are two types of cholesterol found in the blood, which are often referred to as “good” and “bad” cholesterol.
Having “good” cholesterol, known as high-density lipoprotein, makes you less likely to experience blockages.
Whereas “bad” cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein puts you at greater risk of this.
A paper by researchers in the US has shown that getting less sleep at night could affect the levels of “bad” cholesterol in the blood.
As part of the study, which was published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 371 adults over the age of 40 were assessed for cardiovascular disease risk and completed a questionnaire about their sleeping habits.
The amount of fat (lipids) in the blood was also tested.
It concludes that sleeping less than six hours a night could raise your risk of high cholesterol, as well as cardiovascular diseases.
“Sleeping less than six hours per night was significantly associated with female gender, being single, increased stress at home, increased financial stress, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level,” it explains.
“Snoring was significantly associated with low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level, being married, increased stress at work and at home, less than 30 minutes of exercise per day, less than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and being overweight/obese.”
The study concludes: “Sleeping less than six hours per night was associated with several traditional and psychosocial cardiovascular disease risk factors, and snoring was associated with low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level, likely mediated through overweight/obesity.
“These data may have significance for health care providers to identify individuals who may be at increased cardiovascular disease risk based on sleep habits.”
As a general rule, a healthy level of total cholesterol in the blood is five or less millimoles per litre (mmol/l).
More specifically a healthy level of high-density lipoprotein is one or more mmol/l.
And you should have four or less mmol/l of low-density lipoprotein.
To find out if your cholesterol levels are high your doctor will need to take a blood test.
Having high cholesterol is often linked to a number of lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise.
It is widely acknowledged that too much fatty food increases “bad” cholesterol levels.
Fatty and processed meats are prime examples of this, as well as dairy products that are high in saturated fat like butter.
Other common causes of high cholesterol include smoking and drinking alcohol.